Tractor-trailer parking lots are becoming interesting as an investment property.

I remember when truck parking was simply a gravel lot set off somewhere almost as an afterthought. But thanks to the rise of ecommerce, tractor trailer parking has become a much more important part of the commercial real estate scene.

There are more than three million truckers on U.S. roads but only parking for approximately 300,000 trucks, according to the Federal Highway Administration and Trucks.com.

Last year, 37 states didn’t have enough truck parking spaces, according to the FHA. At the same time, 75% of truck drivers claimed that they found it difficult to find a safe and legal parking space during rest periods as per the Federal Hours of Service regulations. The figure increased to 90% at night when drivers must wait for drop-off destinations to open. When drivers are forced to cruise around searching for spots, it can cost companies a lot of money.

More than 1.6 million truck drivers in the U.S. lose 11 hours on a monthly bases searching for parking spaces, which means that $5.1 billion is lost every year because of the shortage of parking spots.

The rise of ecommerce is making tractor trailer parking the next hot thing in industrial real estate. As distribution has become more important to retail, companies are willing to pay more for parking, and this is creating valuable opportunity. This demand has led to trailer truck parking pretty much becoming an investment class of its own.

Highway interchanges have typically been the ideal location for traditional truck stops and multipurpose travel centers. But rising real estate costs have made it more difficult for highway-oriented retail uses that cater to truckers to compete with other, more profitable land uses located near highway interchanges.

Sophisticated investors are realizing the opportunity in leasing truck parking spaces. They are finding new sites and offering value-added services to cater to this market. StoreMyTruck.com, for example, offers 24/7 well-lit parking and storage for a variety of vehicles. New mobile apps connect drivers with available spaces making it easy for drivers to find parking spots.

Even the federal government is getting involved in technology to solve the parking spot scarcity. The Federal Highway Authority is reported to have spent approximately $20 million on technology that will help truck drivers easily find parking spots.

A challenge – and one reason for the shortage – is many municipalities have passed regulations that prohibit truck parking, citing traffic and environmental concerns. As such, tractor trailer parking sites need to be in areas with liberal industrial zoning.

Investors should look close to ports and interstates. They also may want to consider property near urban areas but far enough outside of the center city to avoid unfavorable regulations.

For those interested in exploring this growing investment class there are pockets within the Carolinas that are ideal for this type of investment. There is a great deal of opportunity out there, but when looking for potential sites, be sure to do your homework and make sure the site has the needed ingredients to make it successful.